Coorey Voo is group chief technology officer at banking giant UBS and the president of the Open Data Centre Alliance (ODCA).
In this role he oversees the infrastructure and application delivery at the firm, with a focus on platform services and innovation, and provides guidance on research and development around technology use for future strategies.
Before his time at UBS, Voo worked at other leading enterprise giants including BT, where he rose to the position of CTO for global outsourcing, and then at the Bank of America, where he was global head of solutions architecture.
V3: What does your day-to-day role involve?
Voo: Herding cats or relationship counselling – depending upon your sense of humour. I manage a team to define technology strategies and design architectures to address the operational needs of my business users. This involves managing relationships, negotiating agreements, formulating plans and making decisions on priorities, investments and resourcing. My team covers all core technology for my business.
What would be your dream job (apart from your current role, of course)?
Presenter on a TV program covering gadgets or cars – cars preferably as I love fast things with motors. My career counsellor at school recommended I become a fighter pilot or politician – turns out that I was too short for the former and too honest for the latter.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?
I currently run an all-Apple line-up – iPad (fourth generation) and iPhone 4S – although I also have an iPad Mini, many other old phones and tablets too. I have swapped more times than I can remember and I am seriously tempted by the iPad Air and iPhone 5S.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
Michael Dell because he is a founder/manager who still has passion for the company he started. Marissa Mayer because she is kicking Yahoo back into shape. Marc Benioff for starting Salesforce.com and showing people that using the cloud doesn't have to mean getting rained on.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
My iPad. I work differently, consume information differently, and even behave differently because it is simple, easy and quick. I would feel naked without my iPad now. I'm seeing it change a whole generation of people and making them think about technology in a fundamentally different way.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
Advances in human interface technology are long overdue for major innovations. Today we are constrained by our input technologies and this ultimately limits the speed of progression. I'm keeping an eye on gesture interfaces, where a simple wave of the hand will make something happen – we are only beginning to see some of the applications of technologies like Microsoft Kinect. Also, neural interfaces are maturing at a rapid rate – imagine being able to think about a process and have it codified into software? I'm excited for my children because while we are only thinking of this now, they will live it and use it.
Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
My favourite place to holiday is my cottage in Wales. I love the seclusion and the peace – the place is over 150 years old and does need work, but I love it because it is so different to what I experience daily.
Twitter, Facebook or Google+?
Twitter – although I use the other two also. I think Twitter is amazing. Before Twitter, it would be almost impossible to connect with President Obama, Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg, Will.i.am and the Dalai Lama. I also love it because it teaches people to be concise, brief and to the point. So much of our modern language is punctuated by sound breaks like, "yeah", "you know", "urm", "right". It's great to be able to get rid of this junk when you have to figure out how to get your point across in such a short number of characters.
Old film: Kelly's Heroes; Donald Sutherland is just funny.
Modern film: Armageddon; it's so silly it's funny.
Recent film: Turbo; turbo-charged snail, what's not to like?
All Time: Bugsy Malone; it just works as a concept.
Windows or Mac OS?
Mac OS – it works. I've never had a late night trying to fix some obtuse bug and the parent company doesn't bug me with overly complicated and over-bloated software. I use Windows because I have to.
On-premise or cloud
Both. They both still have a place. Cloud is maturing and diversifying and the opportunities are too good to ignore. But it isn’t mature enough yet to replace all of the traditional technologies, so on-premise still survives (for now).
The ODCA is the global organisation where members are working collaboratively to address some of the most pressing issues enterprises face as they begin migrating data centre IT operations to the cloud. And it's the organisation where I serve as president of the board of directors.
I encourage enterprise IT teams and cloud solution and service providers to get involved in the work ODCA is doing to advance the deployment of interoperable and secure enterprise cloud implementations.
What’s holding back women from entering the IT profession?
Tough question. I think there are several things. The industry itself doesn’t present an inviting case – we don’t make it interesting for women. Almost everything is male orientated – from weird (often previously unheard of) language and words, to unsocial working hours, expectations and competition.
In my experience, I think our profession benefits from having more women because the difference in perspectives between men and women is something that can lead to interesting approaches, outcomes and priorities. I also think that woman fear the industry without ever trying it. They believe the hype, the bad stories, as representative of the industry as a whole and that is a loss for them and the industry.
Finally I think women often have incorrect or unfeasible expectations – simply put men and women are different. Men are good at some things and women are good at others. This diversity in combination can achieve massive advantage. Women should not try to be men, although I have experienced many women who were worse than men in how they treat their female colleagues.
How can we get more school children interested in IT careers?
Make it simple, make it easy and make it relevant. Children have a capacity to learn and adapt, which far surpasses adults. I've seen children pick some extremely complex concepts when they are made fun to learn. We need to build structure in our education process where IT is part of the mechanics of education as well as part of the curriculum.
My first real skills were spatial awareness, good hand-eye co-ordination and good perception, so at an early age I learned to draw, illustrate and paint. I still find creative things hold my attention longer, but at school it was being exposed to computer graphics that led me to become fascinated in how they worked. That led to an interest in making them work, making them do what I wanted them to do.
Eventually this enthusiasm grew to a long-term interest in technology and finding interesting ways in which they can be applied to help people.
Did you always grow up wanting to work in IT?
No, my ambition growing up through my teenage years was to be a graphic designer, working on developing cool cars (in California). Somehow, the California lifestyle – working on the next supercar at my desk overlooking the beach – appealed to me at the time. Then I found the internet, loved the concept and started playing around with websites. I found that I was good at it because it combined my graphics and visual skills with my technical and computing skills, and at the time I was making good money (I was a student) so I was sold on the idea of technology leading me to my land of gold.
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